A T-shirt sold via Hearts for Haiti, created by The Cotton Cupcake Shoppe
When the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January, Victoria van der Laan knew right away that she had to do something. The Albany, NY mom sells cards, banners, wall art and handmade cloth books, and found a way to use her Etsy shop to help raise money.
"I felt that sending a bit of money was not enough and I immediately thought that I could use some of my skills to help out. I thought of sending care packages of blankets and clothing but soon realized that such things were not making their way in. Then I thought of using my shop to raise funds, but realized I don't have enough sales to make much of a difference, either."
Cards by Victoria van der Laan
But she didn't let that stop her. It turned out that there were many, many other people who felt the same way. A thread Victoria started on the forums at Etsy.com led to the creation of her amazingly successful collective Etsy shop, Hearts For Haiti. To date, 3,672 items have been donated by over 1,000 Etsy sellers; 2,587 items have been sold; and $34,000 raised for Doctors Without Borders.
"For a while it was literally a 24-hour job just to stay on top of the inbox," Victoria said. "I slept maybe four hours a day and spent the rest of my time near the computer so things wouldn't get out of hand. We had countless donations coming in and so many sales to sort through — it really was madness! But I think we all felt such an amazing sense of accomplishment when each day we would add another thousand or two to the grand tally going to Doctors Without Borders in Haiti."
Though sales are no longer quite at $2,000 a day, the shop is still open and raising money for charity. "We've made the commitment of staying open until all listings either sell or expire and we're accepting donations for another week or so."
Surely one of the perks of crafting for a living is the ability not just to live in line with your values, but to find new ways to give back to the world at large.
Small Acts Add Up to Something Big
As she expressed it on her blog: "It’s difficult to feel anything but small and helpless in response to such disaster as the earthquake in Haiti, and the scale of the help that’s needed is truly hard to imagine." But thanks to the "overwhelming and humbling" response of other compassionate knitters to this announcement, sales ballooned, and she was able to increase her pledge to 80 per cent of the sales price of patterns and 50 per cent of the sale price of her books. In just over two weeks, she managed to donate more than $24,500 to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).
"To borrow a metaphor from the Yarn Harlot: Just like knitting, the small acts build, stitch by stitch, into something bigger," she wrote.
Other Ways of Giving
Other crafters even base their whole creative business on the idea of giving. Shelly Madeiros owns Charitable Creations Jewelry, a shop with a unique business model. For every piece of jewelry she sells, she gives 10% of the sale price to a charity of the customer's choosing.
"Helping others is very important," she said, "and I have been fortunate enough to start my own online shop, which is slowly but surely gaining more more wonderful customers. It makes me feel good to know that in a small way we are helping others, together."
With more than a hundred sales, she has so far been able to donate to such organizations as Autism Speaks, the ASPCA and the Cancer Research Institute.
Artist Courtney Yancey sells hand-knitted hats through her Hot•Heads shop. For every hat she sells, she gives one to a person in need — someone at a homeless shelter, for example. She gives away far more hats than she sells, however. So far she has donated 1,800 hats to shelters in the Jackson, OH, area; 65 hats to people in Perm, Russia, and 150 hats to breast cancer survivors at a Race For The Cure event. Hat sales and charitable donations enable to her buy more yarn to make more hats, and she has gathered about 100 volunteers to help with the knitting of Hot•Heads.
"We say that it is a 'knitting craze that turned into a giving frenzy'," she said.
Using Your Livelihood to Affect Change
Crafters and craft entrepreneurs in particular are in a remarkable position: able not only to support themselves through their love of creating, to live according to their own rules, but also to join together to create something bigger than themselves.
"The idea of right livelihood has always been very important to me," said Hearts for Haiti organizer Victoria. "I would rather make and live on less money doing something I love than get rich on something that brings me, and others, no joy. The idea of also using my livelihood to affect social change is very compelling to me and it is something I will continue with throughout my life."